Hunting Act 2004 – Terrier Work

Digging out a fox in the traditional manner is now illegal.

The ‘Code of Practice’ has the force of law and comes under paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Hunting Act 2004. This is supplemented by the ‘BASC’s Good Practice Guide’. While the Code has the force of law, the Good Practice Guide does not, but in court would be used as an indicator of a desire to be responsible and stay within the law.

We have taken legal opinion and the most crucial is that digging down to kill a fox as has traditionally occurred is now illegal. This is because the use of spades and digging would prevent the fox from bolting, which is the central demand of the code. Crucially, the BASC’s Good Practice Guide which would be used by courts as an indicator of motive, reinforces this by stating: “You may dig solely for the purpose of rescuing your terrier.”

In a nut shell:

  1. Using more than one ‘soft terrier’ (those that habitually stand off and bark at the wild mammal) to bolt a fox is illegal. Terriers that are ‘hard’ (those that habitually fight) must not be used.

  2. Using a terrier other than to bolt a fox for the purpose of reducing damage to game birds being kept for shooting, is now illegal. Fox example, you could not do it on a farm that just had sheep.

  3. Written permission must be kept by the terrierman showing he has the permission of the landowner.

  4. The aim must be to bolt a fox. Entering a terrier into a hole with its exit blocked is illegal, as is digging down and shooting the fox. Indeed anything that will prevent the fox bolting is illegal.

Exemption Clarification

We’ve taken legal advice and on that basis would like to make all monitors clear that:

The use of a single terrier to flush a fox from underground is ONLY legal under very specific circumstances i.e. “to prevent or reduce serious damage to game or wild birds that are being kept or preserved for shooting”. By October losses to foxes are minimal; losses are most likely to occur either during the nesting season in spring (for wild-reared birds) or during the summer (when reared birds are kept in pens). By October pen-reared birds have been released and losses of game birds are minimal. Thus “serious damage” would not occur from late October onwards.

The use of hounds to drive foxes to ground, where they are dug out by terriermen working with the hunt, was normal practice prior to 18 February 2005 but is contrary to the Hunting Act 2004. Terriermen following hunts and using terriers/digging out thus provide reasonable suspicion offences under the Hunting Act are taking place.

The BASC Good Practice Guide annexed to the Hunting Act states:
“In the event of a dog becoming trapped underground you may dig down solely for the purpose of rescuing your terrier.”

Laws to Protect Wild Animals.

fox attackedThere are various laws that protect wild animals and it is worth remembering them.

Some wild animals and birds are protected to various degrees by a number of Acts, in particular by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, in so far as legislation provides for their preservation and restricts the methods that may be used to kill or take them.

Wild animals were not protected by legislation from acts of cruelty unless they were captive.

However the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 introduced offences relating to the cruel treatment of wild animals in certain circumstances. This is the Act that would cover cruelty to animals underground.

In field sports, the responsibility rests with the individual to ensure that he has the appropriate gun, ammunition or other equipment, is able to identify his quarry, has the capability to take it and consequently dispatch it quickly, efficiently and humanely.

The Protection of Animals Act 1911 cover various forms of cruelty, but the list of animals protected by the Act is strictly confined to those defined as being domestic or captive. This is the Act that would cover cruelty to dogs being used underground.

Finally the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 protects the badger and its sett from interference of digging and putting dogs into them.